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Updated: New Pipkin Middle School site determined by SPS board

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Last edited 12:13 p.m., March 29, 2024 [Editor's note: More information has been added.]

Springfield Public Schools officials say an 8.9-acre site now under contract for a new Pipkin Middle School would open up more opportunities for its students. 

The larger footprint – nearly triple the size of the grounds of the existing school – was strongly recommended by the SPS Board of Education’s Community Task Force on Utilities, which helped set priorities for the voter-approved bond funds that are being used for the project. 

“We’ve had a great response from the Pipkin staff, the task force, city leaders, Friends of SPS – it’s all been really, really well received,” said Travis Shaw, deputy superintendent of operations for the district. 

The new site is located a quarter mile from the current Pipkin location. The property is owned by the General Council of the Assemblies of God.  SPS officials said the sale price will be disclosed at closing. 

The property is bordered by West Division Street on the north, West Lynn Street on the south and North Campbell Avenue on the east, with the irregular western boundary abutting residential portions of the Grant Beach neighborhood.   

The property contains some Assemblies of God facilities, including the headquarters of CompassionLink, an international Assemblies of God World Missions ministry, and a warehouse connected to the AG headquarters building by a sky bridge. Also included in the acreage is a church at the corner of Division and Campbell that formerly housed the Campbell United Methodist Church, now located on East Republic Road.  

Property search 
District officials met with Pipkin school personnel this morning to announce the property deal and the school’s next location.  

“It feels like it’s just a huge relief for everyone,” Shaw said. “We really listened to what the community had to say after things didn’t work out with the Pythian property. They wanted this in Midtown, and they didn’t want the school to leave that area, if at all possible.” 

The SPS Board of Education had voted in March 2023 to purchase a 21-acre industrial site at 3207 E. Pythian St. for the school, but opposition arose from the public, from the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission and from the BNSF Railway, whose rails traversed the site. By September, the board announced that they had changed their mind. 

District spokesperson Stephen Hall told Springfield Business Journal the district approached the General Council of the Assemblies of God through its real estate broker, Jeff Childs of SVN/Rankin Co.  

“Mr. Childs negotiated the deal,” Hall said.  

He said the sale price would be disclosed at closing to protect the ability of both the buyer and the seller to negotiate future transactions in the event the sale does not occur.  

Mark Forrester, director of communications and public relations for the AG National Office, confirmed the sale in an email this morning. He declined to respond to a question about the AG National Office’s plans for housing any operations that may be displaced by the sale.  

“The General Council has reached an agreement with Springfield Public Schools for the sale of a portion of property west of Campbell Avenue to house the future Pipkin Middle School,” the statement reads. “The Assemblies of God has made Springfield its home for 106 years. We are grateful for the deep partnership we have experienced with Springfield, and we’re excited for this to continue in the years to come.”  

Shaw said the opportunity to buy the AG property first presented itself as a suggestion from city officials who thought it was in tune with the needs of the district, though he said it was not known at the time if the owners had an interest in selling. 

“We reached out to them and started that conversation,” he said. “As you can imagine, there was a lot of back-and-forth, and a lot of different people who had to be involved from their organization because it is so large. Ultimately, they felt it was property they could part with, and we were excited.” 

The SPS announcement indicated that closing the real estate transaction will follow a due diligence period of 180 days to allow for site assessments and other requirements for new development. After closing, demolition of the site’s existing structures will begin as part of a two-year project timeline, according to the announcement. 

Building plans 
Shaw said the site offers adequate outdoor space for physical education classes and for extracurricular activities, like football, which has little space to operate at the current school, and track, which has no place at the current site. 

He said there is also ample parking and space for car queuing lines to keep traffic off the street. 

“Having that 9 acres was critical in making that happen,” he said. 

Hall said the new building also would be good for the district’s International Baccalaureate Program, which begins with specialized curriculum in three elementary schools and then funnels students to a specialized program at Pipkin and on to the high school program at Central. 

“Where we’ve seen popularity wane is at the middle school level,” Hall said, noting that is due in large part to the poor condition of Pipkin. 

“As we continue to meet the needs of all of our students, we can offer exciting programming in a variety of realms, and we anticipate renewed interest in the International Baccalaureate Program at the middle school level,” Hall said. 

The project is part of Proposition S, Phase 2, passed by 78% of voters in April 2023 and approving the issuance of $220 million in general obligation bonds to fund school improvements. The bond projects include new middle schools for Reed and Pipkin, along with other upgrades throughout the district.  

Shaw said the Prop S bond projects had the advantage of allowing a great amount of input from building users. 

“A reason you see customization of these projects is the site-specific feedback that architects receive from those who work in the building every day,” he said. 

The current Pipkin school opened in 1925 and has the lowest condition score of any SPS building, according to the release, which noted staff and students have to load and unload from buses and vehicles along the busy Boonville Avenue, and that the small footprint of the school limits space for outdoor activities.  

In the announcement from the district, Superintendent Grenita Lathan called the news a cause for celebration.  

“The search for the right location presented unique challenges, as it is extremely difficult to identify and secure a large parcel of land in the central part of an established community,” she said.  

Lathan said district officials are pleased with the outcome.  

“This location allows us to honor the recommendations presented by the Community Task Force on Facilities and to acknowledge the feedback from stakeholders who preferred that the new school remain in Midtown,” she said. “We are eager to build the school that our students and staff deserve, and we appreciate the General Council of the Assemblies of God for working with us to make it possible.”  

Duane Cox, principal of Pipkin, called the move a huge win for the Pipkin community and for Springfield.  

“We are close enough to our new home to watch the progress as construction begins,” he said in the SPS news release. “The possibilities for Pipkin are limitless, and we are so thankful to the community, the Board of Education and our administration for investing in the future for our students.”  

SPS is Missouri’s largest school district with 24,500 students and 3,500 employees.  

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